On the Cutting Edge - Professional Development for Geoscience Faculty
Innovative Approaches to Teaching Sedimentary Geology, Geomorphology, and Paleontology
University of St. Thomas, Saint Paul, MN
Cutting Edge > Sedimentary Geology > Sedimentology, Geomorphology, and Paleontology 2014 > Teaching Activities > Glacial Evidence in the Andes Mountains, Peru

Glacial Evidence in the Andes Mountains, Peru

Les Hasbargen, SUNY College at Oneonta
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Summary

This exercise brings the students to a landscape in the Peruvian Andes in Google Earth, where some alpine and niche glaciers still exist. Their task is to determine glacial extent in the past, and infer the kind of glacier(s) that had existed in the area.
In order to answer the question, students need to identify the current ice extent, approximate the equilibrium line altitude based on dirty vs white ice (or the firn line, if visible) in summer time imagery, and document glacial landforms. They also need to recognize the correspondence between elevation and ice extent.
Key words: glaciers, glacial landforms, Google Earth

Context

Audience

This exercise is implemented in a junior-senior level undergraduate course in glaciology & glacial geology. Geology, environmental hydrogeology, Earth science, and environmental science majors are enrolled in the course. Pre-requisites for the course include introductory geology and a sophomore level geology course.

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

In order to successfully complete this exercise, students should have learned how to identify glacial landforms and deposits in Google Earth. They should also know how to add points, lines, and areas to Google Earth imagery, and how to create topographic profiles. Students should know how to create figures of imagery via screen capture and paste into a document. Further, students should how to recognize erosional landforms created by river and hillslope processes as opposed to those sculpted by glaciers.

How the activity is situated in the course

This exercise is part of the final examination. Students have about 1-2 hours to complete the exercise. Students need computers with Google Earth loaded on them, and online access. They also need access to Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, or Google Docs or Google Presentations.

Goals

Content/concepts goals for this activity

By completing this exercise, students will demonstrate that they can:

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

Students collect data, analyze the data, and synthesize the data to arrive at an interpretation of glacial conditions in the past.

Other skills goals for this activity

Additional skills which this exercise requires include the creation and compilation of annotated figures, summary statements, and supporting evidence (tables, topographic profiles, etc) into a single document.

Description and Teaching Materials

This exercise serves as an assessment of students' knowledge in a glacial geology course. In the course, they have learned how to identify glacial landforms and deposits in Google Earth. They have also learned how to add points, lines, and areas to Google Earth imagery, and how to create topographic profiles. Further, students have completed an exercise where they conducted a comparative study of erosional landforms created by river and hillslope processes as opposed to those sculpted by alpine glaciers.

This exercise brings the students to a new landscape in the Peruvian Andes where some alpine and niche glaciers still exist. Their task is to determine glacial extent in the past, and infer the kind of glacier(s) that had existed in the area.

In order to answer the question, students need to identify the current ice extent, approximate equilibrium line altitude based on dirty vs white ice (or the firn line, if visible) in summer time imagery, and glacial landforms. They also need to recognize the correspondence between elevation and ice extent.

Activity Process

In Google Earth, go to latitude/longitude 9.39° S, 77.33° W and determine:

For each of the questions, make screen shots of areal imagery, topography, and topographic profiles of glacial features and landforms, and arrange them in a document. Annotate the figures. Your work will be evaluated based on clarity of imagery, correctness of identification of glacial features, and thoroughness of documentation of glacial features and ice extent.

Keep in mind that you can view topographic relief maps of the area in Google Earth, by clicking the "View in Google Maps" icon on the tool bar, and then selecting Maps–>Terrain.

Students create a document (slide show presentation or word document) with annotated figures, verbal descriptions and summary statement of glacial type in the past with a rationale based on evidence.

Teaching Notes and Tips

This exercise can was implemented as part of a final exam, but it can also serve as a laboratory exercise. If this is the case, some training should be provided to the students about how to recognize glacially eroded landscapes (e.g., cirques, horns, cols, tarns, pater noster lakes, aretes, end moraines, lateral moraines). Students should also receive training on Google Earth–how to create points, lines, and areas; how to annotate user-created features; and how to create a topographic profile from a drawn line.

Assessment

Student answers in the submitted document will be ranked and quantified according to a rubric with the following ranks:

The following aspects of the submitted document will be evaluated and provide a summary score based on a weighted sum:

The weighted sum will be re-scaled to a university curve (60-70 = D; 70-80 = C; 80-90 = B; 90-100 = A) with the following linear equation: Grade % = 60.1 + 0.4 x Rubric %.

Click here for an example implementation (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 80kB Jun13 14) of the rubric.

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